Chico Trujillo play cumbia with a twist. Cumbia is a Colombian rhythm based on the West African groove that gave birth to blue beat and ska in Jamaica. In Colombia it became cumbia, the country's signature sound. In many parts of South America, particularly Chile, cumbia is more popular than salsa. Chico Trujillo started as a side project of the Chilean ska band La Floripondio (The Magnolia), but soon became the main attraction for the musicians involved. Chico de Oro (A Little Gold) is the band's first North American release and includes popular cuts from three of the band's Chilean albums, hence the punny title. Chico Trujillo use cumbia's irresistible pulse as a jumping-off place for their own particular sound, a hybrid that includes salsa, soca, ska, surf music, jazz, chicha, and other Latin and Caribbean flavors. The band's music is relentlessly upbeat, and this album will get any party up and moving. The album opens with the insanely catchy "Varga Varga," an amalgamation of cumbia and salsa driven by a blazing horn section with Michael Magliocchetti adding some twangy spaghetti Western guitar and Camilo Salinas playing a few fine Cuban-style piano fills. "Conductor" showcases "Oso" Tabile's big boozy trombone and a tongue-twisting call and response between vocalist Macha Asenjo and the ensemble; "Loca" is marked by Asenjo's passionate crooning, forceful horn accents, shimmering surf guitar, and Salinas' uncontained Farfisa; while "Pollera Amarilla" is driven by odd staccato guitar playing a Brazilian melodic line that's reminiscent of Carmen Miranda's "Chica Boom Chic." The band pays tribute to its ska roots with "Maria," a quiet skank with acoustic accordion and Magliocchetti adding some jazzy Les Paul-goes-to-Chile electric guitar ornamentation, and the pan-Latin rave up of "Ahora Quien," which blends ska, cumbia, and rhumba. The band only slows down for "Cabildo," a moody bolero with a sultry trumpet solo by Zorra Cabezas that morphs into a percussion jam featuring a long spoken word outro.
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AllMusic Review by j. poet